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How to Be Really Useful Reviewers by Lynn McKenzie
Issue #40 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your editor is: Lynn McKenzie

[ Table of Contents ]

1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links

[ About this Newsletter ]

Happy Black Friday, everyone! For you American reviewers out there, hope your Thanksgivings were happy.

Before I begin, let me thank Arwee for the use of her newsletter template. I inadvertently used it for my last issue believing it a public template, without giving her credit. So thanks for a really useful template, Arwee!

Speaking of usefulness, let's learn how to be Really Useful Reviewers.

[ Letter from the Editor ]

I'm certain at least some of you are familiar with the Thomas the Tank Engine series. One of the compliments Thomas the train is often paid is that of being "A Really Useful Engine". The phrase has stuck with our family as a high compliment.

So how can we become Really Useful Reviewers? I asked myself this question after looking over potential newsletter topics and centered on two.

GirlsNGlasses asked: You just received a very helpful, detailed review. At the end, the reviewer requests a reciprocal review. You know there is no way you could offer anything beneficial to this author. What do you do?

First of all, never be certain that you can't offer anything beneficial. At least twice reviewers have mentioned things to me as asides that later struck me as gold for major revisions, or in one case, an entire new story! So the tiniest remark by you may well be a wealth of information to your reviewee.

Apart from that, look at the item(s) in question and try to offer a different perspective from the average review. If it's an item like an image, poll, quiz or the like, give your overall impression of it even if you can't think of any ways to change or improve it. Note details that strike you as important, either positive or negative. Try to say why you rated the item as you did. This can all be helpful.

If it's a poem and you have no knowledge of poetry, or an essay and you know nothing about formal essay structure, again at least give your overall, gut impression of its worth. Say out front that you're not an expert. I often welcome an amateur's opinion as much as a pro's if s/he indicates some point that I hadn't noticed or was curious about.

Amyaurora had this to say: If the writer doesn't ask how does a reviewer do their best to cover all possible things a writer wants to know?

Short of being mind readers, there's no way to be sure unless the writer comes right out and says, "Please tell me if thus-and-such worked," or the like. Still, there are things you can be certain writers want to know. Any mechanical corrections are definitely welcome (or should be!). Insight about the plot, characterization, language, flow, setting, and dialogue all help me as a short story writer. Poets probably want to know about the effectiveness of their format, rhyme scheme, and meter. Essay or non-fiction writers would be interested to see if their points are argued effectively and clearly.

I suggest going through pieces and jotting down your initial thoughts while reading, the second time through if not the first. Find points that you don't get, or that you enjoy, or that stand out in some way. Then, when you're writing your review, refer back to these points and expound on them. Often you'll hit a key point that the author also wondered about. I've done it a few times in reviews, and gotten feedback from reviewers that way as well.

Above all, remember that any review is more helpful than no review. Even the most useless
reviews I've received sometimes tell me where I'm not connecting with a particular type of reader. That information can often be valuable, as are the detailed reviews which help pinpoint exactly where I've hit or missed the target. As long as you're considerate and thorough--which I'm sure everyone receiving this is--you're sure to help your reviewee in some fashion, and thus be considered that rarest of gems: A Really Useful Reviewer.

[ Editor’s Picks ]

Some Really Useful Items:

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#1455575 by Not Available.

Edit Points Explained  (E)
Details about the WDC Edit Points feature and the benefits for writers and reviewers
#1498347 by Charity Marie - <3

          ** Image ID #1496562 Unavailable **

A new shareable reviewing sig by Satuawany , its image number is 1496562.

While this last isn't a WDC item, I think it's entertaining and says something about the sorry state of movie reviews, in a useful sort of way:


[ Ask and Answer ]

I welcome comments, Really Useful or otherwise. If I'd known I'd be doing a second newsletter, I'd have saved the ones I got last June. As it is, I thank those who gave me kind and encouraging comments my last time around, and I promise to save any I get this time. *Smile*
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Created: 03-23-09 @ 10:21pm | Modified: 04-25-09 @ 3:57pm      

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